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Birmingham Approves $1 Million Financial Literacy Initiative for City Schools

2022
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From left: Tanya Van Court, CEO of Goalsetter; Isaac Cooper, founder and CEO of IMC Financial Consulting; Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Mark Sullivan, Ed.D. and Galvin Billups, director of the city of Birmingham Department of Youth Services. (Ryan Michaels, The Birmingham Times)

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Birmingham City Council on Tuesday approved $1 million for a financial literacy initiative for six Birmingham City Schools to receive in-person instruction on monetary topics.

The initiative, the BHM Financial Freedom Project, is a partnership between the city, IMC Financial Consulting and Goalsetter, an app that students will use as part of the program.

“The time is now to ensure that our youth are the most financially prepared and successful generation our country has produced,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “… Their participation in our local, national and global economy is critical to the future of our community and our country, and it is our responsibility to cement their financial foundation as a cornerstone of their financial well-being.”

The pilot phase will launch in October at Jackson-Olin High School, Carver High School, South Hampton K-8 School, Hudson K-8 School, Sun Valley Elementary School and Robinson Elementary School.

“Our job is not just to prepare students for college and careers, it is to prepare students for life, and that’s what the Birmingham Financial Freedom Project does,” said Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan.

The Financial Freedom Project will feature in-classroom lessons on financial psychology, account management, budgeting, credit, savings, investments, debt, taxes, and cryptocurrency. There will also be empowerment fairs, monthly workshops and one-on-one consultations. Training will be led by IMC staff and volunteers from local financial institutions.

Students and teachers at the six pilot schools will receive $250,000 in donated stock for their investment accounts and will use the Goalsetter app, which provides educational and entertainment content for students, as well as a savings account and an investment account, among other things.

The content on the Goalsetter app includes hundreds of hours of video mapped to national financial standards. The Goalsetter Foundation will donate stock to Birmingham students, which will be provided by its partner companies including Nike, Delta, Twitter, Lyft, HP, Comcast, and others.

BCS educators and staff will also receive training to help teach financial concepts while parents will be equipped with financial knowledge through the BHM Financial Freedom Project.

IMC Financial Consulting founder and CEO Isaac Cooper said it was important to involve both parents and faculty.

“We can only give students the foundation they need for future financial success if educators and staff feel more secure in their own financial beliefs, knowledge, habits and goals,” Cooper said, “And we must be equally vigilant about providing the adults in their households with the same level of support.”

City Councilors, during their weekly meeting, expressed support for the project.

“When I first started working I was just focused on getting paid until I received a W2 and was a little confused about what I needed to do,” Councilor JT Moore said from the dais. “Having a program like this gives our children the opportunity many of us didn’t have and that is to better understand finances, taxes and all the things we have to navigate as adults.”

Councilor Carol Clarke said she is “delighted” the city is making the investment.

“I think financial education is the most critical life skill that [any of us can have], and the people who need it the most are the least likely to gravitate to it when offered …but I think once you start including content that is this practical, students really get engaged,” Clarke said.

Council President Wardine Alexander said the program benefits Birmingham students the minute they graduate from high school.

“So many of our children, when they come back from [college], they come back in debt because they’ve received credit, so [this] gives them the opportunity before they set foot in either career or college, to know how to manage the money.”